Custom Collector Guides: Baseball Cards

When you think of old, rare baseball cards, names such as Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio and Ty Cobb probably come to mind. However, it’s likely that all three of these players collected cards when they were kids. In fact, there were cards that a young Babe Ruth probably thought of as old and rare. Ty Cobb only knew of the legend Cap Anson as retired.

Baseball is one of America’s oldest celebrated sports. Major League Baseball was founded in 1869, and by the end of the 1870s, baseball cards were being made. At first, baseball cards were used to help companies sell other products. They gave away a free card when someone bought a pack of candy. Through the 1950s, 60s and 70s baseball cards were best known for being given away with chewing gum. This was thanks to a company named Topps which made both cards and gum. Topps is still around today making collectible cards for sports, television shows and movies.

What to Collect

With nearly 140 years of baseball cards, it would be nearly impossible to collect them all. That is why collectors usually choose one type or group of cards to collect. One example is collecting only Topps cards from the 1950s. Another would be only Goudey cards from the 1930s. Some collectors may not care about the year at all and just want rare cards or ones with errors (it happens sometimes). They may collect “rookie cards,” a player’s first. Whatever cards you choose to collect is up to you.

What to Know Before You Buy a Card

Before spending any money on a baseball card, it is important to do research. It is easy to confuse a card from one company for a card from another. You will want to be very careful. When buying baseball cards online, it is sometimes difficult to tell what condition it’s in. What one collector considers good condition might be seen as poor by another.

How Cards Get Their Prices?

When a toy or game comes out it usually has a higher price than it does later on. This is because when it’s new, everyone wants it and there are only so many in each store. The system that determines the price is “supply and demand.” Baseball cards also follow a system of supply and demand. No matter how old it is, if everyone wants it then it’s going to be worth a lot of money. If not too many people are looking for a certain card, then it will cost less. What raises demand? Usually the rareness of the card, which player is on it and what condition it’s in. The most expensive cards will be rare, feature a star player, and be in mint condition.

Price Guides

Every collector should have at least one price guide. These books explain how much each card is worth so they know how much money they should expect to spend. For collectors who are very serious about baseball cards, buying the biggest book is probably the smartest way to go. Some examples of good price guides are Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide. Prices do change, so it is important to get a new price guide every so often.

Reprints and Commemorative Cards

Sometimes card companies will want to bring old cards to a new audience. They will reprint older, rarer cards, put the current year on them and send them to your local card shop. These cards are fun to look at, but are never worth nearly the same as the original. A 1933 Babe Ruth card can be worth more than $5000, but one printed in 2011 might only be worth a couple bucks.

How to Buy Cards

There are a number of ways to buy baseball cards. The first is card shops. These places are less likely to have the one old card you’re looking for, but they always have the newest packs in stock. The next is card shows. These are events where people in a community get together, set up tables with their own collections and buy and sell cards. Sometimes famous players come to card shows, so they’re not to be missed. Another way to buy cards is through a catalog. Card catalogs are usually from trustworthy companies that are sure about the value of cards and will be honest about the condition. You can also buy cards off the internet, but this can be risky. Opinions of condition can be different, and some people may try to sell reprints as originals. Be careful. One final way to buy baseball cards is through auctions. Many sports associations have collections and will sell them to raise money. Be on the lookout for auctions near you.

What Are Your Cards Worth?

Even though a price guide may say a card is worth $100, most people will only pay $30 for it. Buying a card for the value is actually bad because if you try to resell it you will likely only get this 30%. People who make lots of money from buying and selling cards can predict which ones they will be able to sell for higher amounts later on. They make a profit.

Taking Care of Your Cards

A card’s condition is one of the biggest effects on value. A card in mint condition is often worth significantly more than a card with even the slightest scratch or tarnished edge. One great way to keep your cards in mint condition is to keep them in special cardboard boxes made just for collectible cards. There are also plastic pages with slots that will fit cards. If you choose plastic pages, be sure they aren’t sticky before you slide the cards in. Whichever option you choose, keep the cards safely away from pets and baby sisters and brothers.

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